Wilneida Negron, Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity
At a time when coalition building is more crucial than ever, our Associate Director Patronella Nqaba sat down with 2019 Atlantic Fellow Wilneida Negron, Ph.D., to talk about how Black and Latinx communities can work together to build a more equitable future.
This is an edited version of their conversation.
PN: What motivated you to apply for AFRE?
WN: I had a lot of field experience working directly with Black and Brown communities affected by everything from school-to-prison pipelines, to deportations and surveillance. This experience made me want to be purposeful about centring a strong and cohesive racial equity lens in all of my work.
A lot of my work also involves being in majority-white spaces like finance, tech, and capital markets. Therefore, I wanted to ensure that my vision for equity is well anchored as I navigate the challenges in these types of spaces.
And lastly, there is no other space or network [apart from AFRE] that I can think of that gives leaders the space to learn in a vibrant and diverse community, that solidifies their racial equity framework, and introduces them to lifelong friends and collaborators.
PN: How has the Latinx experience in the U.S. been shaped by anti-Black racism and what work do we need to do to shine more light on the uniqueness of that experience?
WN: Fighting anti-Black racism has helped the Latinx community see the cultural and ethnic richness of our identity, particularly in the lifting of Afro-Latinx voices, ideas, histories and perspectives. There is a natural connective tissue that the Latinx community has with the past and future, and we want to build on that alongside Black communities.
The structural and systemic nature of anti-Black racism in the U.S. has also given us [Black and Brown communities] common language, frameworks, and a political opportunity to address the very real issues affecting both of our communities - from over-policing and surveillance to workplace discrimination and exploitation. Black and Brown communities see the shared systemic challenges as well as the potential to reimagine a new shared future grounded in a stronger multi-racial democracy.
However, there is a need for greater bridge-building across Latinx and Black communities. This calls for new models for organizing and base-building that centre and celebrate our unique identities and that generate opportunities for co-powering.
PN: What does co-powering between Black and Brown communities look like and how can that work be supported, strengthened and deepened?
WN: To effectively co-power, I think Black and Brown communities have to disrupt and reimagine how we support organizers financially and how we build power within these communities. This requires reforming institutions like philanthropy as well as exploring ways to generate independent revenue-generation streams for long-term power building. Right now, the way that organizing for racial equity is financed has created scarcity and a territorial mindset that does not allow for experimentation or exploration, let alone the development of long-term power-building agendas.
PN: How has being part of AFRE helped to expand your view of the work you do and its importance?
WN: Being part of AFRE has given me access to an amazing set of leaders who have become strong allies and partners in the field. Together we continue to develop and launch projects that seek to scale our collective thinking and impact around racial equity.
The experience has also made me more comfortable being and leading in spaces where differences are surfaced intentionally and respectfully. The greatest highlights from the fellowship, by far, were the many disagreements and conversations that challenged me emotionally and intellectually. They taught me that doing racial equity work begins with my own personal work and transformation. This work is supposed to make us uncomfortable and challenge us at our core. That is “ground zero” for the activation of our resilience to do the work for the long term.